Soldiers of the Year Awarded

The competitors begin a 12-mile road march during this years Best Warrior Competition at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center Oct 23-26, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane. 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

GREENVILLE, Ky. – Soldiers from around the state came to compete at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in this year’s Best Warrior Competition Oct. 23-26.

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The four-day event challenged the competitors Soldiering skills, knowledge and their endurance.  From an early morning physical fitness test, a 12-mile ruck march and a three-mile combat run after they cleared a simulated village, these Soldiers showed true grit and determination to complete each one.

After the competition, Kentucky’s top Soldiers were named. Spc. Daniel Penalva with the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry “Mountain Warriors” won Soldier of the Year, Sgt. Joseph McClanahan from the 75th Troop Command took home NCO of the Year and Sgt. 1st Class Raney Wiseman from the 101st Main Command Post – Operational Detachment (MCP-OD) won Senior NCO of the Year.

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Joynt, with the 238th Regiment, navigates under barbed wire at the grenade range during this years Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

“I feel super honored because I didn’t expect to win coming into this,” said Penalva. “The other Soldiers were so great at everything and I knew if I made one mistake, they wouldn’t and that kept me on my toes.”

While some did not expect to win, another competitor, was fully prepared to bring home the top prize after the preparation he put in.

“I kind of expected it,” said McClanahan. “I am grateful to have won. It’s a great competition and I was happy to have been here.”

Getting the opportunity to compete with fellow Soldiers is something that the command would hope to see in all Kentucky Soldiers.

“It is an opportunity to show what they are able to accomplish,” said Sgt. 1st Class Paul England, competition coordinator.  “It builds camaraderie, and they get to represent their unit.”

The one thing that impressed the cadre and leadership was the drive these Soldiers showed despite the conditions they endured and the sheer exhaustion they were feeling.

The third day of the competition included a 12-mile ruck march for the Soldiers which tested their strength and sheer willpower.

Winner of the Soldier of the Year, Spc. Daniel Penalva, representing Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry, walks across the beams of the first obstacle of the confidence course. (photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

“By far the 12 mile ruck was the hardest event,” said Penalva. “We all knew going into it, it was going to be hard, but none of us knew how heavy our packs were going to be because the standard is 35 pounds, but nobody had it packed lighter than 52 pounds. About ten miles in, my legs started to cramp up. It was a rough one, and at that point it’s about pure willpower, it’s not about who is stronger, it’s who wants it more.”

Penalva finished the ruck in 2 hours and 45 min.

The combat run on the fourth day was the final event that wrapped up the grueling event. But before that, they had to take on the challenge of going through a simulated village with ten opposition forces and clearing all the “buildings” and then had to render aid to a casualty on the battlefield. Once through that, it was just a straight three-mile push to the finish.

“No one wanted to quit, we had (a competitor) who had a blister so bad he was bleeding through his socks after the ruck march, but wanted to fix up his blister and get back to the next event,” added England. “No one wanted to give up!”

Some advice to future competitors who might be thinking about volunteering, you better start training now.

“You can’t start training a few months before, you have to be already trained and at a certain level,” said McClananan. “And be good at the basics.”

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